What If I Was Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment in California? 2024

Frank S. Clowney III

Sexual harassment is one of the gravest issues that plague today’s modern workplace. This is happening not only across California but across the entire globe. It can be a scenario that many could never have expected themselves to be in, and therefore they never take the time to learn about what next steps should be taken as a remedy. Many also fear that they could be fired for reporting the incident. This, sadly, sometimes happens as a form of retaliation against the employee. Fortunately, there are comprehensive laws in place to protect California employees and hold their alleged abusers accountable. A lawyer who represents sexual harassment cases can be your lifeline to ensure that justice is served and any settlement you receive is as large as possible.

Understanding Retaliation in the Workplace

To be clear, firing an employee for reporting any scenario they believe to be sexual harassment is illegal. This is laid out under California and federal law. These protections can be found in both the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As you can tell from these well-established laws dating back several decades, wrongful terminations have been a reoccurring issue in American society that warrants legal protection. Anyone who feels that they have been let go from their role because they raised a formal complaint regarding sexual harassment has the right to take action.

Recognizing the Signs of Retaliation

Each sexual harasser in the workplace has their own way of “punishing” their victims when their inappropriate actions have been raised as a concern.  Some are more creative than others. These are some of the common retaliatory responses one may face in the workplace:

  • Termination: This is the most overt response to a harassment allegation. The individual who raised the concern may be fired right after the accusation, or their abuser may try to make it more discreet by firing them weeks later to try and make it seem as though it was coincidental.
  • Demotion: Another reaction could be to demote the individual to a lower position than where they are currently. This could be in an attempt to lessen their authority or influence in the organization or to exert power over the individual to make them feel helpless. This could be either an actual reduction in the seniority of their role or a more discreet demotion, like passing on a salary increase that they rightfully earned.
  • Transfer: Sometimes, if an individual works in the same department as their alleged abuser, the abuser will try to move them to work in a different group. This may be against the employee’s personal desires or professional goals. However, those factors are not taken into consideration. The only priority of a move like this from the alleged abuser is to attempt to distance themselves from the accuser and hope that the scenario will go away.
  • Hostile Work Environment: Sometimes, there is not one direct action against the accuser but several widespread reactions that turn a company culture toxic. This could make your daily working experience uncomfortable or unnecessarily challenging. Some examples could be the individual being removed from any team bonding activities, facing constant unfair criticism, or being more likely to fall victim to disciplinary actions compared to their colleagues who did not report any harassment.


Q: What Qualifies as a Wrongful Termination in California?

A: The official mark of wrongful termination is someone losing their job for reasons unrelated to any of the traditional performance metrics, such as frequent absences or missed deadlines. If an attorney can make a direct connection between the act of firing and a proven allegation of sexual harassment, it is deemed wrongful termination. This does not always occur just because of a sexual harassment allegation. It could also be seen as purely based on discrimination, such as someone being fired because of their race or sexual orientation.

Q: Is an Employer Liable for Harassment in California?

A: Yes, employers can be held liable for any harassment experiences that happen within the walls of their organization. It does not matter if the incident was perpetrated by the supervisors or if it was an observed, yet unreported, form of harassment between two employees. In the past, employees have successfully held different employers accountable for not taking their accusations seriously by filing legal claims. This can severely damage the reputation of a business and cause them to suffer financially.

Q: What Is the Average Payout for Wrongful Termination in California?

A: If you successfully win a wrongful termination case, you can expect to receive on average anywhere between $5,000 and $90,000. There are a ton of different factors that affect this figure, such as:

  • How much money you earn in your role
  • Any time that was lost due to this incident
  • The exact nature of the employer’s conduct

The more egregious the behavior of the employer, the closer you may get to the upper range of the compensation spectrum. There are also non-economic benefits that you can receive after proving wrongful termination in court, such as the reinstatement of your role and your professional reputation.

Q: Can I Collect Unemployment If I Am Fired in California?

A: The Golden State allows you to collect unemployment benefits if you were fired for most reasons. There are some exceptions to this if you are let go for misconduct. This could be a scenario where you completely disregarded a company policy after many reminders or if you committed a serious offense, such as falsifying company records. It would be up to a judge to determine if you were indeed wrongfully terminated and eligible for unemployment benefits, or if you fall under the misconduct category.

Contact The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III Today

If you are in the midst of being fired for reporting a sexual harassment claim at your organization, you need a reputable sexual harassment lawyer to get involved and restore your rights. Contact us today at The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III and see why we are a popular option for victims of wrongful termination in the area.